Super Natural Cooking: Five Ways To Incorporate Whole and Natural Ingredients into Your Cooking by Heidi Swanson (Ten Speed Press)Blogger, photographer, graphic designer and passionate cook Heidi Swanson demystifies unfamiliar health shop ingredients in Super Natural Cooking, a cookbook that drags the world of whole foods very firmly into the 21st century. Nothing is complicated, all is creative and original and Heidi is an encouraging teacher. This is a satisfyingly chunky book, designed with love and attention to detail. Must Cook: Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens
Although I’ve been immersed in study, there is (somehow!) always time for reading cookbooks. Here are a few recommendations for Christmas.Cook Simple by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley)I’m a fan of Diana’s Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons and last year’s Roast Figs, Sugar Snow so I was looking forward to reading Cook Simple and it’s remained on top of the pile ever since. Here you’ll find brilliant ideas for dinners, and plenty of them, with influences from Sweden, Sicily, Turkey and Georgia. Divided into chapters based around easily available core ingredients – pasta, fish, sausages, leg of lamb – with seasonal vegetables and fruit in their own sections, Diana gives lots of recipes and ideas to make mealtimes easier. Must Make: Roast Squash, Feta and Black Olive Salad.
Honey – Moroccan honey is the most un-honey-tasting honey that I’ve ever eaten. We often had it for breakfast, the rich caramel sweetness drizzled across English muffin-styled Moroccan pancakes called beghrir or the flaky, multi-layered m’semen. Accompanied with a tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a café crème, it made the perfect start to the day.Spices – although I’ve been really happy with my old blend of ras el hanout from Greg Malouf‘s Moorish, I couldn’t resist the chance of picking up some more to compare and contrast it with what I use. I also got turmeric, ground ginger and two types of chilli powder(at least I think that’s what piment fort/piment doux means!).Olives – a kilo of green olives in what the shopkeeper described as “piquante” flavouring and another half kilo of wrinkled sweet black olives. I loved how each meal in Morocco started with a small bowl of these olives and a basket of flatbread as we perused the menu. They never lasted long.Dates – considering the variety and quality on offer, I was restrained and came home with only a half kilo of the sweet, plump fruit. One dish that kept turning up in the books that I read while travelling there was of a roasted fish, stuffed with almond-filled dates. Must try and keep a few true Moroccan dates to try out that recipe.Preserved lemons – while picking up the olives and dates in a small shop near the Casablanca train station, minutes before we had to get the train to the airport, I couldn’t resist getting a few of these glorious-looking lemons. This, despite the fact that I’d made a jarful from some organic lemons before I left Ireland! Another thing for the compare and contrast experiments, methinks.Garlic – the small bulbs of garlic available in Morocco are much sweeter than the stuff that you can find on sale in Ireland. I love to use raw garlic but it can be very off-putting if, instead of gently cosying up to the other ingredients, it decides to loudly broadcast its presence. I brought some good quality garlic home from Paris and it lasted me ages so I couldn’t resist grabbing a couple of bulbs in Casablanca when I got the chance.
We weren’t very well organised for the last bank holiday weekend so it was Sunday morning before one of the boyfriend’s friends and his girlfriend came over and we tried to figure out where to go for the night. Despite fears that all accommodation would be booked solid for the weekend, a quick scoot through the Rough Guide to New Zealand and a few calls later and we had rooms for the night at Formerly The Blackball Hilton in the wee town of Blackball on New Zealand’s West Coast.